Searching for sweetness: Chapter 3

The last recipe where I tested Granulated Splenda and Clabber Girl Sugar Replacer yielded some of the most dramatic effects. Our favorite brownie recipe (On-the-Fence Brownies) calls for butter and sugar to be melted together.

Then cocoa and vanilla extract are added, eggs, salt, flour, chocolate chips and/or nuts mixed in, then the batter is baked. You can find it on page 158 of The Cookie Companion. Sugar makes up 42% of the batter’s weight in this one, which makes its baking characteristics a major player in the baking properties of the dish. Substituting a replacer for that much sugar was bound to cause significant changes.

Besides acting as a sweetener, sugar behaves like a liquid during baking. In the case of brownies, as it melts in the oven, it can migrate to the top of the batter and form that shiny, irresistible crust we all know and love. I was curious to find out what happened when you melted the butter with sugar replacers. Talk about a test of heat stability…

Here’s what the Granulated Splenda looked like after its turn in the microwave with the butter:

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Now the Clabber Girl:

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After the rest of the ingredients were added, the Splenda batter looked a little, well, puny. I soldiered on, and put it in the 9 x 13-inch pan the recipe calls for, spreading it to standard brownie thickness. Here’s what happened:

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I put the Clabber Girl batter through all of the same steps; here’s how it looked in the pan before baking:

cginpan1.jpg

Now for the after shots. Here are the Splenda brownies:

splenbaked.jpg

Unfortunately, they looked even stranger after they came out of the oven. Some clumps of the sweetener never fully mixed into the batter and ended up bubbling up to the top. The consistency was crumbly and dry.

The Clabber Girl version looked better, but came out very cakey, with no shiny top.

cgbrownies.jpg

Time to taste.

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As you might expect, looks mattered here. The CG comments included: “good chocolate flavor, but not the texture of a brownie—more like a dense cake.” “I liked this one, but more like a cake than brownies”.
Granulated Splenda got a lot of one word notes: “Awful” and “Yuk” among them.

The wrapup:
Sugar replacers work better in some types of recipes than others. They’re best employed in higher moisture situations, like the muffins we tried, quickbreads (especially if it’s a quickbread that uses fruit or pumpkin for some of its moisture) or pie fillings.

If you have the option in your diet, start with a blend of sugar replacer and real sugar. Splenda recommends this, with good reason.

For overall performance and taste, I’d chose the Clabber Girl Sugar Replacer of the two. It weighs, behaves, and tastes closer to real sugar. I understand that some WalMart Super Centers are carrying it now; you can also see recipes designed for and using it at Clabbergirl.com.

Susan Reid
About

Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently enjoying her fourth career after stints in advertising, running restaurants, and teaching at the New England Culinary Institute. She joined King Arthur in 2002 to ...